Director: Lars von Trier
Stars: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgard, Shia LaBeouf, Jamie Bell, Willem Dafoe, Mia Goth
Fifty Shades it ain’t!
Volume II has had less favourable reviews than volume I and I suppose I can see why. It’s much darker and harder to watch. It also takes a slower pace and isn’t as funny. However, I found it to be just as excellent as the first volume. I may be biased here, as I am into dark and depressing films. I especially love Lars’ more depressing and emotional films, Dancer in the Dark and Breaking the Waves, so volume II was a powerful and satisfying experience for me.
We delve deeper into Joe’s dark side as she explores the more disturbing side of sexual stimulation by attending some highly un-erotic classes with Billy Elliot. These scenes are probably the hardest to watch in the whole film. Fifty Shades of Grey it ain’t! The chapter is extremely well-made though. From the moment Joe sets foot in the eerie building, there’s an extremely uncomfortable atmosphere and a sense of terrible foreshadowing. Some have said that these masochistic scenes go on for too long, but I felt that the length was necessary to really show the weight of Joe’s nymphomania and how it’s totally disturbing her life. Jamie Bell is also very good in these scenes.
What I did find a little odd though was the jump from Stacy Martin to Charlotte Gainsbourg. Three years later and she morphs into a completely different-looking person and has aged about 20 years! It didn’t really work and sort of brought you out of the film a little bit. Another thing which I find really bizarre was the blatant self-reference to Anti-christ! Granted there are many nods throughout the two volumes to Lars’ other work, which is fine because it’s pretty fun if you’re a fan (like me!) to spot Joe wearing the same prostitute clothes as Bess from Breaking the Waves. However, one scene is pretty much a remake of the opening to Antichrist with the same music and everything. I found this extremely odd and it did serve to bring me out of the film.
These were my only jibes with the film though really. On the whole it’s a very rich, intelligent and thoughtful experience. It didn’t feel like two hours at all because I was so sucked into the story and really interested in Joe’s life. She’s such a complex character and a very interesting one to listen to. It was also nice to see more of Charlotte Gainsbourg here as I think she’s a very underrated actress. Her monotone voice is weirdly hypnotic to listen to and you believe everything she does. All of the performances were excellent though.
Not many people seem to talk about the latter half of the film, which is strange because I found it very interesting. I especially found the whole paedophilia talk interesting and it was very taboo-breaking and brave of Lars to include this, but then again he’s never been afraid of being a little provocative. I found the whole relationship with P quite moving, and the sex therapy scenes were wonderfully awkward. One of the best moments is when Joe recalls climbing a mountain and finding her ‘soul tree’. It’s so beautifully done with gorgeous cinematography and music.
The ending was very touching, of course up until the very last moment. I’m not quite sure how to feel about the ending. It’s very provocative and has got people talking. It’s interesting but I’m not sure if I like it. I’m also not too sure if it should be taken so literally. In fact, I’m not too sure if the whole film should be taken so literally as it’s unclear if some parts are Joe’s delusions. It’s very interesting.
Although I watched the two volumes a day apart, I think that I could quite easily watch it all in one go. It all went by quite quickly for me and nothing felt too long. In the end I think that Nymphomaniac is one of the best films Lars has ever done. It’s probably my favourite out of the depression trilogy by a hair. It’s brilliantly directly and is full of an energy, life and soul which many films lack. It’s very explicit with a lot of erections and fadge close-ups, but none of it felt gratuitous. Lars has created a rich and powerful film. Yes, there may be a few hiccups, but anyone would expect a few hiccups in a film that is four hours in length.